Is gluten really the monster that celiac disease makes it out to be?
Or if you’re normal can you eat gluten without worrying?
Do you even KNOW what gluten is?
It gets a lot of attention, but many people don’t know that gluten is a protein that’s naturally in wheat, barley and rye.
Celiac disease means that the body recognizes this protein as an enemy that must be attacked.
Ingestion of gluten thus triggers an immune response in someone with celiac disease.
Over time, this immune response becomes damaging to the body.
Celiac disease has gained a lot of attention over the past several years, snagging along people without this autoimmune condition (“normal” people), making them wonder if THEY too should stop eating foods containing gluten.
Normally healthy people have claimed that cutting out gluten has resulted in fat loss.
However, bear in mind that many gluten-containing foods are high in calories and also would be considered junk foods, such as croissants, pastries, donuts, microwavable treats and sugary cereals.
There are those who have a gluten sensitivity but not celiac disease, and they indeed should avoid gluten.
But what about normal people – those without celiac or a non-celiac sensitivity to the protein?
Study on Healthy People and Gluten Has Surprising Results
The British Medical Journal published a report in 2017 on the effect of long-term gluten intake on healthy individuals.
The researchers recognized that celiac disease is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, and that this risk becomes lower when the patient avoids gluten.
- The researchers accessed data on about 45,300 men from the Health Professional Follow-up Study and 65,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study.
- Gluten intake was monitored over 26 years (1986 to 2010).
- At the start of the study, subjects had no history of heart disease.
- No significant link between all these years of gluten intake, and a higher risk of heart disease, were found, even when researchers adjusted for other heart disease risk factors. The subjects did not have celiac disease.
- Strangely, they discovered that higher gluten consumption correlated to a LOWER risk of heart disease.
Cause and Effect
This study does NOT establish cause and effect; only a correlation. However, when a person entirely cuts out gluten, this can mean a lower intake of heart-healthy whole grains.
It’s for this reason that the researches do not advise gluten avoidance in normal people, as it may backfire by raising the risk of heart disease – through a lowered consumption of heart-healthy whole grains.
If you’re wondering about the heart benefits of some gluten-free foods, such as those made with spelt flour, the researchers acknowledge that the study did not find whether or not participants ate gluten-free substitutes (e.g., spelt bread or rice flour muffins).
If you’re “normal” and do not have any symptomatic sensitivities to gluten, you can feel comfortable eating gluten in your favorite foods.
Of course, everybody should always try to increase their intake of fresh produce, whole grains, nuts, seeds and wild caught fish.